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Changing your will following a divorce. Your divorce means your will is out of date and needs a rewrite.
Who can inherit if there's no will?

Right to inheritance, according to the law.

If someone dies without a will (known as dying intestate), the rules of intestacy will decide who can inherit their estate. These rules are the same for England and Wales, but vary in Scotland.  An estate can be inherited if the value of the assets is more than the debts of the estate (including the funeral expenses and administration expenses)

If the intestate person was married

If the deceased was married or in a civil partnership but didn’t have any children, the surviving partner will inherit all of the estate. This situation will occur even if the partners are separated but not divorced.

If the deceased wasn’t married

If the deceased was living with someone but they weren’t married or in a civil partnership, only children and blood relatives are entitled to the inheritance. If the deceased has no blood relatives, then any possessions, money and property left behind will be claimed by the government.

If the deceased is survived by a legal partner and has children 

If there is a surviving partner, the estate must be worth more than £270,000 for the child or children to inherit. In this case, the children will inherit equal shares that total half the value of the estate over £270,000. Grandchildren will generally only inherit if their parent dies before the intestate person.

If the deceased had no surviving partner but has children

If the deceased has no surviving married or civil partner and doesn’t leave a will, according to the rules of intestacy, their child or children will automatically inherit. In the case of multiple siblings, the estate should be divided equally between them.

Adopted children, step-children and children from a previous relationship

Regardless of whether children are adopted or from another relationship, each is treated equally by law. Step-children, however, will only inherit if there is a will or if they were legally adopted. Children will only receive their inheritance when they reach the age of 18 or if they marry or enter into a civil partnership before turning 18.

If the deceased leaves no surviving relatives

If someone dies without a will and leaves no surviving relatives, it’s known as ‘Bona Vacantia’ (Latin for ‘vacant goods’). In this instance, the estate will be passed onto the Crown. The Treasury Solicitor will then be responsible for collecting the assets and administering the estate.

Who won’t inherit

If there’s no will, the following people won’t inherit:

  •         Friends
  •         Unmarried partners/partners not in a civil partnership
  •         Carers
  •         Relations by marriage

Challenging the rules of intestacy

Some people can challenge the rules of intestacy under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975 (‘IPFDA 1975’).  The IPFDA 1975 is designed to help surviving dependants, such as a spouse, children and cohabitees, who have been left with insufficient funds to enable them to cope. In these circumstances, the court will examine the need for support and maintenance of the claimant while also considering their status in relation to the deceased, the size of the estate, the needs of other beneficiaries or dependants and the conduct of the parties


The content of this article is not a substitute for comprehensive legal advice, and is solely available for information purposes. For tailored advice, the team at Which? Legal are here to help. Call 0117 456 6020 to find out more.



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Changing your will following a divorce

27 August 2020

Your personal circumstances can change at any time. It’s important to review your will when this happens, particularly if you get a divorce.